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It was the app that was forever coming. After Google made email storage effectively unlimited with Gmail, it only seemed natural that they’d give us a way to store files online. Thus, the rumors of a “Gdrive” in 2006 seemed incredibly plausible; who else would be better to organize our files online than Google?
6 years later, Google finally unveiled Google Drive as the place to store your files online. It gives you 15GB of storage for any type of file you want, and lets you manage your files online right alongside your Google Docs documents, Sheets spreadsheets, and everything else you make with your Google account—even forms and maps. You can sync files from your Mac, PC, and iOS and Android mobile devices, or just use the web app to organize your files. And if that’s not enough space, you can get anywhere from 100GB for $1.99/month all the way to 10TB for $99.99/month.
There’s so many places you could save your files online, though, that just having free storage isn’t enough to make Google Drive interesting. What sets apart Google’s storage service is its deep integration with web apps. You manage files 100% online, using the web app to share files and even pick what’s synced to your devices. Even search is better online. Sure, you could use your computer’s search to quickly find a file synced with Drive, but if you use the search in the Drive web app, you’ll also be able to search though text in everything, including your images and PDFs, as it includes automatic optical character recognition for everything you upload. And every time you open Drive, Google will show the files it thinks you’re most likely to need right now.
Editing files with Drive is equally better when you’re working primarily online. When editing a document in Google Docs or replying to emails in Gmail, you can easily grab files from your Google Drive storage and use them directly without needing to upload anything. Add one of the dozens of web apps that support Google Drive, and you’ll both see their files show up in your Drive and will be able to just as easily import Drive files into those apps. Back on your desktop, you’ll see all the files from the web apps, though they’ll actually be just shortcuts that’ll open the appropriate web app in your browser.
Where almost every other file sync tool is built around the way you’d use files in traditional apps, Google Drive is built for the web. And that makes it an obvious choice if you’re doing most of your work online already.
Originally published September 1, 2014; updated April 25, 2018 with new screenshots, features, and pricing.